In a clash that will redefine Pune’s football history, Pune FC will host Bharat FC in the city’s first ever Pune Derby to be played on Saturday night at the Shree Shivchhatrapati Sports Complex, Mhalunge-Balewadi.
Pune FC, the elder statesman of Pune football will battle the debutants Bharat FC in what promises to be a mouth-watering clash.
The I-League Round 14 encounter will also be the first time the city rivals face off at any level thus making it an interesting clash.
With the I-League entering its second half, the game will be an important one for either side. Furthermore, as both sides aim to make a move up the table, the three points at stake on Saturday will be very crucial.
Speaking at the pre-match Press Conference, Pune FC’s Head Coach Karim Bencherifa was excited and said, “Every derby clash is important with the hype that surrounds it. It is an important game for the fans and there will be a quite a lot of them who would be interested to experience a derby for the first time. It is definitely a historic game as it’s the first time that Pune has two teams, and both of them are very professional.”
Meanwhile, Bharat FC’s Head Coach Stuart Watkiss expects this to be a pivotal fixture in the context of their debut season. “This is going to be one grand football match and everyone is eagerly looking forward to it. The first ever Pune derby carries a lot of weight and we will be putting all that we have on the pitch. A positive result will set us up very nicely in the second half of the season,” he said.
Discussing the game, Pune FC’s Bencherifa further added, “For me, as a Coach, it is important not to get too excited by the occasion because we must not forget what is at stake – much needed three points, to put us in a good position in the table. We have to play good football and have a good game. Also off the field each team is trying to garner in the support and get their fans to root for them and I think it important to note that this is the real derby of Pune as a city.”
Watkiss has a full-strength match-day squad to choose from and said that he was faced with what he termed a ‘nice’ selection headache. “Training has been really lively over the past week. I can see a lot more energy and intensity amongst the bunch and that is great during the build-up to such an important clash. Everyone is fit, available for selection and I will have quite a tough time selecting my 18 men,” he said.
Giving his thoughts on the historic game, Pune FC skipper Anas Edathodika said, “Every game in this season’s I-League is a tough one and the derby against Bharat FC won’t be any different. We are prepared for the challenge and are looking forward to it.”
Gouramangi Moirangthem Singh, Bharat FC skipper, said that he would be speaking to the team about rising to the occasion but not getting overawed. “The derby is a high-profile clash and we want to give our best. Everyone on the pitch wants those three points but it is important to keep our heads, do the simple things correctly and focus on the task at hand,” said the captain.
The game kicks off at 19.00 IST on Saturday and will be telecast LIVE on Ten Action.